About Scarborough Downs
At Scarborough Downs, we are dedicated to the sport of harness racing. We strive to entertain the public, and provide a livelihood for the equine industry so we can provide for our employees, community, and State of Maine Agricultural interests.
About the track...
Scarborough Downs Harness Racetrack is proud to be celebrating its 64th racing season in 2014! And we owe our success to all our valued customers and horse men and women who support the track each and every season.
Nestled in the tall pines on 500 acres in the heart of Southern Maine in the town of Scarborough, Scarborough Downs is the home of New England's fastest half-mile track. The track, designed by Charles Coon and Sons, has drawn rave reviews by horsemen and women throughout its fast-paced history.
Our facility provide enough open space for concerts and other special events, please call us to inquire about rental (207-883-4331 x1004). Handicap accessible and parking for 4,000 cars!
Scarborough Downs, excerpted from Scarborough at 350
by Karen Vachon
In January 1950, Robert A. Verrier and Fred H. Snow presented a proposal to Maine's Thoroughbred Race Commission to open a horse racing track in Scarborough. Six months later, Scarborough Downs's held the states first thoroughbred horse race on a state-of-the-art track.
In 73 days, workers transformed the marshland purchased from the Town of Scarborough for $600 in a million dollar race facility. The one-mile loop was created by excavating, hauling and grading 1.5 million cubic yards of gravel, muck and sand. One thousand tons of steel and 2 million feet of Maine lumber were used to build the Grandstand, barn, paddock and other buildings.
The proposal to build a Scarborough track stirred a storm of controversy from anti-gambling forces - including Maine churches and newspapers - as well as local merchants and harness racing enthusiasts, who feared the thoroughbred race track would cut attendance at nearby Gorham Raceway and agricultural fairs. Depsite the opposition, Scarborough Downs pressed on toward opening day.
On July 1, the bugler's call welcomed the horses onto the track. Scarborough Downs featured a covered grandstand with 6,500 seating capacity, stables for 1,000 horses, parking for 6,000 cars and jobs for 500 Maine residents. Daily attendance was expected to be 5,000, with a projected betting pool of more than $200,000 a day.
Within the first few weeks of the track's opening, it became evident there were not enough fans to suport afternoon racing. The track installed lights and Scarborough Downs became the first thoroughbred track in the nation to offer night racing. Attendance and betting increased, and the Downs' founders congratulated themselves on a winning formula. In a show of cooperation, Joseph Cianchette, owner of Gorham Raceway, joined the fledgling business as the track's vice president.
The success raised eyebrows amonth the harness racing and agricultural fair interests, who convinced the state legistlature that thoroughbred right racing threatened the harness racing industry. A subsequent law barred night racing of thoroughbreds, even though harness racing venues began scheduling evening races. (The ban was later lifted). It proved to be the first of many battles between the two interests over race dates and times.
After a series of legal battles, Robert Verrier emerged the princial owner of Scarborough Downs. Despite the legal and legislative restrictions, attendance and betting at the Downs increased througout the 1950s. By 1959, betting had topped $9 million and attendance was nearly 260,000 for a 48 day race season. Each year the track upgraded and modernized the facility.
By 1963, a combination of factors -- including increased competition from other tracks, a declining Maine economy, a change in vacationing trends (Canadian tourists who once spent weeks in one location were now becoming more mobile and spending only days), and increased interest in harness racing -- threatened the financial stability of the track. After a series of proposals failed to increase profits, Scarborough Downs was sold to a W. Virginian sportsman, James Edwards, in November 1968 for more than $1 million. He in turn sold the Downs and Gorham Raceway, which he had purchased in early 1969, to Ogden Corp., a New York conglomerate of which he had been a director.
During the next decade, the corporation made major changes, closing Gorham's track and for a time running both thoroughbred and harness races at Scarborough Downs. The ownes installed a circuit videotape system and live closed-circuit tlevision for race officials and flashing monitors in the Grandstand. In the early 1970s, the Downs built a new half-mile oval and went exclusively to harness racing. During the off-season, the facility hosted horse shows, a rodeo, rock concerts, a nationally sanctioned snow moble event, a square dance convention, and fairs in an attempt to increase income at the track.
On March 28, 1979, Joseph Ricci, described as a maverick millionaire with boundless energy, pruchased the financially troubled track. For more than 20 years, Ricci's passion and flamboyant style, never without controversy, brought excitement, new ideas and hope to Maine's harness racing industry. He added a trackside bar and an elegant dining room, renovated the dilapidated barn area, and built grooms' quarters. Legislation initiated by Ricci enabled off-track betting facilities to operate in locations around the state, with revenues supplementing track operations and the purse account.
Following Ricci's death in 2001, his widow, Sharon Terry, took over operation of Scarborough Downs. In 2003 voters passed a statewide referendum to allow Scarborough Downs to install slot machines at the track, but local voters in both Scarborough, and later Saco and Westbrook (where Scarborough Downs had proposed alternate sites) rejected the propsal. State law provides Scarborough Downs a share of the funds from slot machines in Bangor, where local voters approved their operation in conjunction with a race track in that city.
Throughout its history the vision for Scarborough Downs has been constant: a premier race track and recreation destination in the heart of Southern Maine.
The track's unique setting draws thousands every racing season from all parts of the United States, Canada and beyond.
Close to the beaches and only 8 miles from downtown Portland, Maine's largest city, Scarborough Downs is one of the top entertainment destinations in the state -- We were voted the area's top Recreation Destination four years in a row! We truly are the only place to watch The Kentucky Derby and all the Triple Crown races! We are also host to a series of exciting and educational events all year long, from Family Fun Day to The Maine Standardbred Breeders & Owners Stakes races and championship finals. In 2013, we are once again holding the 2-year-old Stakes Finals in September (9/8) and the 3-year-old Stakes Finals in October (10/12). Plus there's a whole lot of fun planned all season long, just check our Special Events section and "like" us on Facebook for the latest updates on all our happenings. Whether you are new to harness racing or are a seasoned fan, you'll enjoy the thrill of a visit to the track. So make sure you stop in for a visit on your next trip to Maine, and enjoy your day at the races!
How to Get to the Track!
On your GPS: Type in Scarborough Downs Harness Race Track Scarborough, Maine. Apparently the 90 Payne Road address does not work and sends you down to the marsh!
Directions: We are conveniently located off Exit 42 of the Maine Turnpike, north or south. After the toll plaza, turn left onto Payne Road. At the first set of lights, take a right into the track and follow for about a half mile until you see the Grandstand and Clubhouse buildings on your left. Lots of parking. You can also reach us via US Route 1. From Portland: Take 295 South to Exit 3/Scarborough. Follow access road to Route 1 South. Pass through 7 traffic lights. Scarborough Downs is on the right at the 8th light. From points south: Travel up Route 1 Look for our big neon sign on the left!
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